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Anti-litter program to compete nationally

Middle school students from the Montessori School of Covington are competing at the national level with a bottle deposit project they created to reduce litter in Georgia. Pictured, from left, are students (back row) Tai Paulsen, John Bradley Sauer, Sarah Allen, Taylor Bechtler and teacher Sara Vinson, (front row) Claire Vinson, Carly Travis, Jackson White, Madeline McCanless and Mariam Goreish with their project that will be sent to the national level for judging in Los Angeles at the end of June.

Middle school students from the Montessori School of Covington are competing at the national level with a bottle deposit project they created to reduce litter in Georgia. Pictured, from left, are students (back row) Tai Paulsen, John Bradley Sauer, Sarah Allen, Taylor Bechtler and teacher Sara Vinson, (front row) Claire Vinson, Carly Travis, Jackson White, Madeline McCanless and Mariam Goreish with their project that will be sent to the national level for judging in Los Angeles at the end of June.

COVINGTON -- What started as a community project at a local private school has turned into a project that will be introduced to public officials from around the nation.

The middle school students from the Montessori School of Covington recently won the 2011 Georgia Project Citizen showcase at the state Capitol in Atlanta for their project, Bottle Deposits: Reducing Georgia Litter.

Earlier this school year, students chose litter as a major problem in the Newton County community as their focus for a project.

"The students conducted surveys, analyzed a variety of resources and interviewed experts representing state and local government as well as the private industry," said their teacher Sara Vinson.

They researched problems like chicken regulations in Newton County and Rails to Trails and decided that litter was a bigger problem that affected Newton County and the state as a whole. Students developed possible solutions like bottle deposits, increased education and increased litter pickups and decided the best solution would be bottle deposits -- citizens would pay an extra $.05 for bottles but once they took them to recycling centers, they would get their $.05 back, said student Claire Vinson.

"People who continue littering and not recycling would allow those who are willing to pick up litter on the side of the road to get their money," said student Mariam Goreish.

Students received a letter of support from Newton County Commission Chair Kathy Morgan, and also talked to former state representative Denny Dobbs to get his opinion on the subject since he has tried to introduce similar legislation in the past.

The students are all too familiar with litter -- often they walk through Clark's Grove and down Clark Street to pick up trash.

"When you're in your car, you don't notice it as much," Goreish said.

Students hope to reduce litter in Newton County and around Georgia.

"If there's a lot of litter, people aren't going to want to move here, which can make the community suffer," Claire Vinson said.

Now, their project will compete at the national level in Los Angeles on June 27.

"(Project Citizen) is all about creating an awareness of citizenship and civic engagement," said Mary Stakes, state coordinator for Project Citizen.

The Montessori School was the only private school to compete at the state level and beat out 15 other entries with a superior ranking after being scored on understanding a problem, analysis, public policy development and implementation of a plan. Nearly 400 students from five congressional areas were part of the state competition.

The school's project will be the only portfolio from Georgia to be evaluated at the national level.